The Los Angeles Lakers have been hit by the injury bug over the last few weeks and it has forced head coach Frank Vogel to alter his rotations in a big way.
Anthony Davis remains out with a calf strain and Marc Gasol is currently in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocol. Now the Lakers’ backcourt could be taking a hit after Alex Caruso left the Lakers’ win over the Indiana Pacers.
In the second quarter of the contest, Caruso hustled to tap a ball out to Kyle Kuzma in the corner for a 3-pointer. Unfortunately, he would run into a Pacers player and the back of his head would hit the floor. Caruso would stay on the ground for some time before eventually walking to the locker room.
Caruso did not return to the game and afterward, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel gave an update on his condition.
“Alex [Caruso] was obviously not able to return. He is not in concussion protocol but is still being evaluated for a concussion but is not in protocol currently.”
The Lakers’ backcourt has been in a bit of a slump recently and losing Caruso would be a tough loss, especially defensively.
Luckily, the Lakers don’t play until Monday, which gives Caruso a few days to heal up and get ready to play against the Golden State Warriors if he is able to avoid going into the concussion protocol.
While his numbers rarely stand out, Caruso always seems to be in the right spot on the floor and consistently makes great plays for the Lakers on both ends of the floor. Dennis Schroder is the Lakers’ next best playmaker after LeBron James, but with Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol still currently out, the Lakers need other players who can create shots for others.
Caruso is capable of providing that in spurts and remains one of the Lakers’ most trusted defenders who can guard a number of positions. As such, him being out would put pressure on other role players to turn things around quickly.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews and Talen Horton-Tucker have all been inconsistent at best recently. Horton-Tucker picked up all of Caruso’s minutes in the second half, but it is unknown what Vogel would do should Caruso be forced to miss some time.
One other option would be Alfonzo McKinnie, who looked more than adequate when given big minutes against the Sacramento Kings recently. Vogel praised him then saying he made a case for more minutes, and he would undoubtedly help their cause defensively.
Hopefully Caruso will be good to go moving forward, but the injuries are beginning to pile up for the Lakers and they will need everyone to step up until they are able to return to full strength.
Caruso could draw interest at mid-level exception in free agency
The Lakers’ fan-favorite guard has proven to be an important piece to the team and while that is great for the Lakers, it could also make it difficult for the team to keep him moving forward. Caruso will be an unrestricted free agent following this season and some executives believe he could command the full mid-level exception this offseason.
That exception will be worth around $9.5 million, a major leap from the $2.7 million Caruso is earning this year. Owner Jeanie Buss has been open about her willingness to spend to keep the Lakers at the top of the championship contenders list, but the league has clearly taken notice of what Caruso can bring to a team.
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